In the past year, the NYC Coalition for a Smoke-Free City has been receiving more calls on secondhand smoke in residential buildings than on any other tobacco control issue. The move towards more smoke-free housing options in NYC is a natural next step to protect the health of our families. One young mother, Aja, in Brooklyn shared her story with us:
Secondhand smoke filtering into their apartment was the last thing that soon-to-be mother Aja and husband Paul Thorburn thought about when they moved into their new home in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, a year ago. Aja took a moment to share her story with the Coalition’s Brooklyn Smoke-Free Partnership:
“I was eight months pregnant when my husband and I moved into our apartment, unaware that a chain smoker lived directly below. I recalled smelling a hint of smoke when we first visited the unit, but was reassured by the realtor that it was probably one of the workmen doing repairs. After moving in, we started to smell strong cigarette smoke. The doorman informed us that the neighbor below us was a smoker, and the smoke has been the subject of many complaints.”
What did you do?
“I spoke with the neighbor and our management company. I even provided literature to our building on smoke-free housing, but nothing seemed to work. Our building purchased an air purifier for us; they also sent workers to caulk holes and vents. This helped somewhat, but at times, we still smelled the strong cigarette smoke.”
Presented on July 24, 2012 before the New York City Board of Health:
Good afternoon and thank you to the members of the Board of Health for the opportunity to speak today about Article 81 – Food Preparation and Food Service Establishments – also known as the proposal to limit some sugar-sweetened beverage purchases to sixteen ounces.
My name is Sheelah Feinberg, and I am the Executive Director of the NYC Coalition for a Smoke-Free City. We are an organization based in each borough that has worked with more than one hundred health and youth focused community groups to raise awareness around tobacco control and prevention. It has been said that sugar is “the new tobacco.” I’m here today to address that comparison directly.
In a recent article published in The Atlantic, Dr. James Hamblin cited a new study that showed some adults (ages 21-29 and older than 65) drink more alcohol when the state increases cigarette taxes. Calling attention to state taxation policies, Hamblin suggests that these policies need to be mindful that higher prices can cause binge drinking in certain adults. That may be the case with some adults, but what about our children?
Nearly 4,000 U.S. children will smoke their first cigarette today. Symptoms of nicotine addiction often occur just weeks and sometimes days after kids experiment with smoking. The addiction rate for smoking is higher than the addiction rates for marijuana, alcohol, or cocaine.
Last week, the Second US Circuit of Appeals court last week ruled in favor of Big Tobacco who aggressively markets their deadly, addictive products to youth. In NYC, the NYC Coalition for a Smoke-Free City and our many community partners work to protect the public health, but as a result of this ruling, retailers won’t be required to display educational warning signs on the harmful health effects of smoking.
The proposed graphic health warnings were first introduced by the NYC Department of Health in 2009 and were intended to show New Yorkers what cigarettes can do to you. “These warning signs will help persuade smokers to quit and show children why they shouldn’t start to smoke,” said Health Commissioner Thomas Farley at the time. But Big Tobacco filed suit in June 2010 claiming the signs violated their rights. And now the court has defended their right to promote deadly products instead of allowing public health officials to teach and warn our children.
According to the Surgeon General ninety percent of adults smokers started before the age of 18. That is a sobering statistic and tells us that Big Tobacco’s marketing works. In New York state alone, Big Tobacco spends $1 million a day on marketing. Retail stores are one of the last places where the tobacco industry can target our youth. Why does Big Tobacco get to control the conversation with their ads in these stores? Why can’t the dangers of smoking and tobacco use also be clearly communicated as well?
On July 6, 2012, President Obama signed a federal highway bill. The bill is worth more than $100 billion and will fund infrastructure projects for the next two years. That means thousands of new construction jobs and better roads, bridges and mass-transportation systems. But the bill also includes an amendment that will ultimately force Little Tobacco (around 1,000 stores in 42 states, including nearly 50 in New York State alone, that operate Roll-Your-Own (RYO) tobacco machines) out of business.
Ten years ago, 25.6% of adults in our country were smoking. In 2010, 19.3% of American adults were smoking. Fireworks will light up the skies of Independence Day, but let’s also celebrate because, across the nation, fewer people are lighting up, and more are choosing to live smoke-free.
There’s a momentum building around the country in support of smoke-free housing. According a new Quinnipiac poll, 59% of New Yorkers want to live in smoke-free apartment buildings. Building smoking policies would help educate New Yorkers about the smoke-free housing options that are available to them.